Theory: Redefining Success

The idea/theory of success is one of those abstractions that I seem to lack the ability to grasp——every time I think I have got it I come around to the realization that I do not get it. Certain people label me as successful while others label me as its opposite. The thing is I believe myself to be simultaneously successful and unsuccessful. This state of opposites renders that I am neither successful nor unsuccessful. However, when I hear and read about how some others perceive success, it often translates as an extension of the want disease. The case of going on in the dark, pretending all is visible. So I have come up with my own success theory. A theory because I know now that I may wake up tomorrow and see things differently. Under this theory, success is the state reached where one is not burdened with either the desire to succeed nor the fear of failing. A state where one is not afraid of making mistakes nor anxious about making something brilliant. Where mistakes are necessities——instruments of enlightenment. Where one relinquishes control and self emanates. Success then is the ability to know to expect everything with enthusiasm. Where pain is merely the peripheral of joy. Where the time given one is more than enough. 

My definition of success has much to do with the environment which nurtured me. And much to do with a life long rebellion against competing with others, rather than with myself. Chances are I am a happy loser and this here is a defensive opinion. But here is the thing, I have met individuals who are labeled successful and all they exude is cold emptiness.  They seem slaves to the clock and the epitome of busyness——guardians of the success scam——slaves who lack the ability to do anything but to keep the lie brewing. 

The thing is I have always found competition annoyingly unfair: we are not the same, we have not the same advantages nor disadvantages hence it makes little sense to run the same marathon. Often when the idea of competition comes to mind, I think of my junior high school years. When one’s grade was posted along that of the entire class——over a hundred or so students——on a blackboard placed in the school yard for all to see. The brilliant students floating atop, amongst whom I was not; the dimwits sinking to the bottom, amongst whom I was absent. I did, for some time, long to be one of the bright students, who were incredibly popular——owing to that zeitgeist of Ghanaian school culture which makes intelligence very attractive. No one wanted anything to do with the dimwits, who, though, not idiots, were reduced to such cruel labels because they were at a disadvantage in a rote educational school system. 

Success defined as excelling in something, or accomplishing something of merit, or rising to a state of peer appreciation/envy makes very little sense. First of all, these states of merit are often not an individual definition but that of a community which is foreign to itself and knows absolutely nothing about the individual: people who possibly live as if the corporeal is all there is in existence. It can be rationalized, everything under the sun can be rationalized. But that does not mean there is any genuine worth in competing for these time sensitive accolades. The cost is too high and the product quite unsatisfactory. Perhaps someday it shall make more sense to me. Although in truth I am afraid of waking up to wanting something so seemingly trivial. 

Here is what I mean, why become something other than what you already are? Especially when the only thing one has to be is what one is? That is one's only assignment in life is self-excavation, i.e. the best one can discover. To be successful then is to work on boring down through the layers to self. And where is the place of superiority in this? Where everyone is different yet equal in the eyes of truth? One  may argue that in a sense one never accomplishes anything, that all we are, are lucky——albeit ungraciously so. 

Hence success is when you feel no need/want to accomplish anything. Success is when your worth is not measured in relation to how much more or less others have in comparison to you. Success is how much of yourself you get to discover. It is how much time you allow truth to visit with you. Success is the courage to face yourself. It means that you know your worth as skin between toes is everything worth celebrating; everything worth being grateful for. Success is the metamorphosis of rock to diamond: one gives up, trustingly, and it happens, wonderfully and beautifully, to one.

Jane A. Odartey


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